Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Breakfast of Champions

If you've never slathered low fat pound cake toast with homemade low sugar refrigerator jam, or store bought marmalade or peanut butter or even a whisper of butter or margarine, you've been missing out. Sprinkle a teaspoon of sunflower seeds on top and you have an under two hundred calorie Flat Belly Diet breakfast complete with MUFA.

So brew a pot of tea and pull out your toaster -- eating healthier never tasted so yummy.

Monday, June 21, 2010

And So Begins Canning Season

Jam challenged? I sure am. Just because there's a row of raspberry bushes in the backyard and my husband happens to have a green thumb doesn't make me an expert anything. Some things I struggle with and jam is one of those things. If you have a hard time with fruit jams then this is the recipe for you.

It works with crushed strawberries just as well -- has low sugar content and is easy to spread. Next Saturday morning, serve your homemade jam slathered on store bought lo-fat corn muffins (heat them up in a 325 degree F oven for ten minutes or so) with the morning joe. Your house will feel more like a B & B than an average family kitchen.

Now that's the way to start a pleasant weekend.

4 cups washed and drained raspberries
1/2 cup sugar

2 ounces orange liqueur
One squeeze of a lemon
1/2 package Ball Fruit Jell No Sugar Needed Pectin
2/3 cup water

Add sugar, orange liqueur, and a splash of lemon juice to raspberries in a medium saucepan. Stir thoroughly. Let this sit for 10 minutes to allow flavors to blend. Bring to a low boil on medium heat, stirring constantly. Let simmer for 2-3 minutes then remove from heat.

In small saucepan, whisk powder pectin into water. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly, and boil while stirring for a full minute. The texture when ready will be similar to a thick white sauce.

Pour pectin mix into the pan with the raspberry mixture. Stir for at least 3 minutes before ladling into four 8 ounce clean sterilized jars. Leave a full inch at the top before putting lids. I use Ball jelly/jam jars and white Bell lids. Refrigerate for at least 24 hours. Keep one jar for immediate use and freeze the rest.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Cheery Cherries

Not everything in life is easy. Take pitting a pound or two of fresh cherries -- a real PITA (Pain In The Ass) but once you bite into this Cheery Cherry Tart it'll all be forgotten.

Today was Father's Day. Ask any dad who worried that the mother of his children would never forgive him for his part in convincing her to make him a dad. OK, so the truth is that we never forget and we do tend to talk about it in gory detail for months afterward. Especially to other new moms -- it's like comparing notes after final exams. But we don't mind so much once it's over and the babies are so loveable that most of us are willing to try it again.

Having reason to celebrate Father's Day and/or Mother's Day is worth it. Kinda like pitting cherries.

1 -1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup confectioner sugar
Dash of salt
1/8 teaspoon almond extract
1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/2 cup melted unsalted butter, allowed to cool to room temperature.

Cherry Filling:
2 tablespoons corn starch
Dash of salt
3/4 cup white sugar
3-1/2 cups fresh pitted cherries
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Almond Crisp Topping:
4 tablespoons ground almonds
1 tablespoon sweet unsalted butter, chilled
1 tablespoon biscuit mix (like Bisquick)

Grease tart pan with butter or a cooking spray, use an 8 inch or 9 inch square or round tart pan with removable bottom.

To make topping:
Pulse topping ingredients in food processer until it resembles a crumb mixture. Set aside.

To make crust:
In a medium bowl, mix extracts into butter, stir well. Set aside. Sift flour, sugar and salt onto a sheet of waxed paper or parchment. Add zest and toss well. Slowly add flour blend to butter mixture, using a wooden spoon to blend well. Add enough flour to make a soft pliable dough ball (feels like soft cookie dough). Place the pastry in the prepared tart pan evenly press the pastry onto the bottom and up the sides of the pan. It's OK to use your fingers. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and place the pastry crust in the refrigerator to chill.

To make cherry filling:
While crust is in refrigerator, combine salt, sugar, corn starch and cherries in a medium sauce pan. Set heat to medium, stir constantly until cherries release some of their juice. Bring to a boil still stirring constantly. Allow to bubble just 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat and allow cherries to cool for 15-20 minutes. Once cooled add extracts. Mix well. Remove crust from refrigerator and spread cherry filling over chilled crust.

Sprinkle almond crisp topping over cherries. Bake in preheated 350 degree F for 40-45 minutes or until cherries feel fork tender and juices are bubbling. Cool on a rack at least half an hour before serving. Serve warm or cold. Add a scoop of Ben & Jerry's Cherry Garcia on the side for an extra touch of yummy.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Thank you, George W... I mean it..

Our backyard raspberries are ripe for the picking. For the next two weeks, I will pick a cup or two of luscious homegrown raspberries daily. So by now you must be wondering what do my fresh juicy berries have to do with former White House occupant George W. Bush -- I finally found something to thank him for.

This Berry Angel recipe is adapted from an angel muffin Bush years White House executive chef, Bill Yosses insists on calling breakfast food. Before arriving at the Bush White House in 2007, Yosses had three decades under his apron strings as a French pastry chef and at some of New York's finest restaurants. His new cookbook, titled The Perfect Finish features these fluffy meringue based cakes that Chef Yosses calls "the eighth wonder of the world." Add a dollop of fresh whipped cream and  I couldn't agree more. When it comes to yummy ... mission accomplished.

2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup powdered sugar
dash of salt
1 cup fresh berries (raspberries, blackberries, small strawberries cut in half, or blueberries)
1 teaspoon vanilla
8 egg whites, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon finely grated citrus zest (from fresh lemon, lime or orange peel)

Set aside 1 tablespoon granulated sugar for sprinkling. Preheat oven to 365 degrees F. Rinse berries (I used raspberries) thoroughly and set to drain in a berry colander. Line 1 dozen jumbo muffin tins with paper liners. Sift flour, powdered sugar and salt into a small bowl. Toss zest (I used orange) evenly throughout, making sure the zest is coated with flour. Set aside. Using an electric mixer set on medium, beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Increase speed to high and gradually add granulated sugar (except that already set aside for sprinkling). Beat until egg whites form stiff meringue peaks.

Toss vanilla in berries, covering the berries with the flavoring.  Using a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, gently fold flour mixture into meringue, use careful strokes so as not to deflate the egg whip. Fold in 2/3 of the berries. Fill each cake liner 2/3 full with batter. Top each with a few more berries and sprinkle lightly with granulated sugar. Bake for 20 minutes until tops are a gently golden in color and a cake tester comes out clean. Allow to cool on wire rack at least 15 minutes before serving. Best eaten within 24 hours.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Plum Good Chicken

The Chinese method of poaching chicken before baking guarantees a far more tender chicken than traditional western baked chicken and lends itself to using the juicy leftovers for fabulous chicken salad. I learned about this by reading a Chinese cookbook more than twenty years ago.

I'd bought the book hoping to learn the secret of making Chinese boneless barbequed pork. The pork was a failure but this chicken method has become my favorite. The glaze is my own version of Chinese plum glaze -- apricot jam or mandarin marmalade make a lovely glaze too but I always come back to plum. All fruit sugar free jams can be substituted for a low sugar diet. Yummy.

1 whole chicken (3-4 pounds)
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1/ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
2 tablespoons plum jelly
2 tablespoons mango chutney
1/2 teaspoon honey

Rub chicken with soy sauce inside and out, generously season with black pepper. Put it in a pan with about 1 inch of cold water. Slowly bring it to a simmer, turn the heat down to med/low, cover, and let it simmer for 30 minutes. While the bird is steaming, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Remove the chicken from the boiling water after 30 minutes and place into a roasting pan. In a small microwave safe bowl stir plum jelly, mango chutney and honey. Microwave jelly glaze on high for 1 minute then stir well before basting entire chicken. Put chicken in the oven, immediately lower heat to 325 degrees F. Bake for 45 minutes, basting with plum sauce again at the 30 minutes mark. Drizzle a side salad of mixed greens, apple chunks, dried cranberries and crumbled blue cheese with French dressing, pour a glass of sparkling cider and enjoy.

Serves 4.